Friday, July 02, 2010

Creativity, dopamine & fluttering one's eyelashes

I don't go round fluttering my eyelashes at just anyone, you will be pleased to hear. In fact I am quite pleased to hear it too as it turns out that a low rate of eyelash fluttering is associated with some forms of creativity.

From the BPS digest:
"An intriguing new study has found that the rate at which students blink (as measured over six minutes using electrodes placed near the eyes) is associated with both their divergent and convergent creativity scores, but not their intelligence. Divergent creativity was measured with the 'alternate uses task', which required the students to come up with as many original uses for a brick, shoe and newspaper as possible. Lower and higher eye blink rate was associated with poorer performance, whilst medium eye blink rate was associated with superior performance at this task.

Convergent creativity was tapped with the 'remote associates test', which required the students to identify the one word that matched three other words (e.g. for 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch' the answer would be 'long'). In this case, eye blink rate was negatively related with divergent creativity - the less a student blinked the better they tended to do at this task.

Why should eye blink rate be associated with creativity? The study authors Soghra Chermahini and Bernhard Hommel explained that eye blink rate is a marker for dopamine activity and in turn, dopamine has previously been linked with creativity.

The researchers pointed to evidence showing, for example, that patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, which is associated with excess dopamine, tend to have high eye blink rates. Patients with Parkinson's, by contrast, which is associated with reduced dopamine, show low eye blink rates. They also highlighted past research linking dopamine with creativity. For example, there's evidence that positive mood - which is related to dopamine levels - can enhance creativity, although the results in this area have been extremely inconsistent.

Chermahihin and Hommel said their research adds to the literature by showing that the dopamine-creativity link is far from straight-forward. There was a negative linear relationship with convergent thinking but a positive, inverted U-shaped relationship with divergent thinking.

Chermahini, S. & Hommel, B. (2010). The (b)link between creativity and dopamine: Spontaneous eye blink rates predict and dissociate divergent and convergent thinking. Cognition, 115 (3), 458-465


Enda Hargaden said...

As a child my nickname was Blinky. At least I'm less likely to develop Parkinson's.

Kevin Denny said...

Thats the spirit Enda, every cloud has a silver lining.

Liam Delaney said...

Blinky - are you really sure it was a good idea to volunteer that information?

Kevin Denny said...

Good point: every silver lining has a cloud.